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As a guest at the Annual Sports Writers Banquet toasting his boxer, Joe Palooka, manager Knobby Walsh tells Bill Becker and Frank Neil the story behind Joe's success: Some years earlier, following Joe's knock-out victory over the previous boxing champ, Knobby tells reporters that the secret to Joe's success is "clean living." Although the reporters are initially unimpressed with Knobby's boring story, they eventually find a useful angle in it and use it for a publicity campaign centered around the "clean living" statement. Joe's personal habits, including the fact that he drinks milk and gets lots of sleep, become a nationwide story, resulting in hundreds of fan letters to the fighter. While the press exploits Joe's motto for their own purposes, Joe's wealthy Uncle Charlie tries to use Joe's good name and fame in a nefarious scheme to acquire a parcel of public land. Under the pretext of planning to use the land for the phony "Delawanna Park Project," Charlie involves Joe in his scheme by making him the official head of the project. Knobby, meanwhile, learns from Harry Mitchell, the feature editor of the Herald , that Joe is being used by Charlie for a "dirty deed." Knobby then tells Joe that in the 1920s some unscrupulous men, who made an oil grab on property belonging to the United States Government, created a scandal. As Harry explains it, Joe's uncle plans to bury oil surveys in out-of-the-way public lands and is scheming to get the land through Joe's good name. Overhearing Knobby spell out his plan, Charlie steps forward and, without denying the accusation, tries to silence Knobby and Joe by blackmailing them. Charlie warns that if the story about the land grab is broken to the press it will result in Joe and Knobby's implication in the scheme. Joe is troubled by the scheme, but nevertheless returns to the ring and continues to fight. Despondent over the situation, Joe goes into hiding, after which his sweetheart, Anne Howe, goes looking for him. As a vote on the bill that would clear the way for the land transfer goes up before the state legislature, Knobby, Joe, Harry and others are prevented by Charlie's thugs from going to the hearing to testify against the bill. Joe eventually manages to escape and arrives at the hearing in time to testify against Charlie and prevent the land from falling into the wrong hands.